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Illuminating and applying ‘the dark side’: Insights from elite team leaders. (2015)

“…presents evidence of the use of dark side behaviors by elite team leaders, illuminates these behaviors look like during a common leadership task, and reveals how they were effectively applied.”

Andrew Cruickshank, University of Central Lancashire, & Dave Collins, University of Central Lancashire/Grey Matters Performance Ltd.

Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 27(3), 249-267.

As a core performance construct, leadership has long been an area of interest for sport psychologists.

… one intriguing suggestion from associated work is that leaders at (elite sports) level use both bright (ie. socially desirable) and dark (ie. socially undesirable) traits and behaviors to be effective.

… organizational scholars widely agree that dark side traits are socially undesirable and … when leaders possess high levels of these traits, it is also widely agreed that this hinders long-term group performance, as well as their own longevity.

For example, … narcissism in a range of organization-based managers was negatively associated with their interpersonal effectiveness and integrity … Owen and Davidson (2009) also identified links between leader hubris and impaired risk appraisal, a failure to predict undesirable outcomes, and dangerous decision making.

Notwithstanding this consensus … socially undesirable aspects of personality are not just apparent in destructive leadership. They also prevail, albeit in lesser concentrations, within inherently constructive approaches.

For instance, Davies (2004) found that transformational leadership was linked to the dark side traits of colorful (ie. wanting to be noticed and the center of attention) and imaginative (ie. acting and thinking in creative and at times odd or unusual ways)…

… organizational scholars also widely agree that dark side traits can in fact enhance group functioning and performance. For example, relationships have been found between social dominance and willing followers, hubris and innovation, Machiavellianism and legislative development, and Narcissism and strategic dynamism.

Diverging from the negative impact of consistently demonstrated dark side traits, the suggestion from (our) work is that intermittent and contextually suitable uses and displays can contribute to effective team leadership

… this study presents evidence of the use of dark side behaviors by elite team leaders, illuminates what some of these behaviors look like during a common leadership task, and reveals mechanisms through which they were considered to be effectively applied.

… our findings (may) encourage the development of elite team leadership models that are underpinned by expertise (ie. knowing why, when, where, and how to use specific behaviors) rather than competence (ie. the possession of, or ability to call on, general behaviors).

Access the full paper here: Illuminating and applying ‘the dark side’

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